Sarawak may be well known for its many tourist locations but Sarawak food itself is something you can’t miss.
If you’re someone who loves travelling and eating, then you’ve got to put Sarawak on your list of states to visit in Malaysia.
To get you started on what you need to try, I’ve compiled a list of the must-have Sarawak foods and separated them into halal and non-halal.
And if you need help ordering drinks at our kopitiams, we have a guide on that too.
Non-halal Sarawak food
A simple noodle dish, you can have this for both breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is basically egg noodles tossed in oil or lard and served with char siew or other toppings like fish balls.
You can get two versions of this: plain white or seasoned with red/char siew sauce, which gives it an extra dose of sweetness.
Kampua may look similar to kolo mee, but this noodle dish has Foochow origins and more commonly found in Sibu and Sitiawan areas.
Made with pork lard, soy sauce, white pepper, and fried shallots, there are two versions: plain white or black as it is seasoned with sweet soy sauce.
Consisting of flat rice noodles served in a dark stew, it involves long hours of slow cooking. The result is a dish that is light, savoury, and absolutely mouth-watering.
The meat in kueh chap is typically pork innards as well as different cuts of pork, so this dish may not be for the faint of heart.
While kacangma may look a bit off putting due the motherwort herbs, this Chinese dish is believed to be able to ease the effects of menstruation.
While halal versions do exist, the non halal version is said to taste a little better from added rice wine.
Another Foochow delicacy, kompia is a tough and hard bun typically coated in sesame seeds and baked in a round stone oven.
You can usually get it plain or cut in half and stuffed with minced meat for an extra delicious experience.
Those familiar with the dim sum siu mai might be a bit confused when looking at sio bee, because the two are quite similar.
The difference is that while siu mai is a mixture of pork and prawns, sio bee is totally 100% filled with pork, so no seafood there.
Halal Sarawak food
Sarawak layer cake
While many places offer layer cake, Sarawak layer cake is truly special as it not only comes in different colours, but also a huge variety of flavours like watermelon and chocolate chip.
Simply take a stroll down our waterfront bazaar and you will see many vendors offering these sweet treats, with each having their own special recipe.
Called “breakfast of the gods” by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain himself, Sarawak laksa differs from most laksa in that it has vermicelli rice noodles soaked in a delicious shrimp-based broth.
But the thing is, not every laksa stall serves good Sarawak laksa, so you’ll want to ask a local for their favourite go-to.
A somewhat overlooked dish in Sarawak, tomato noodles are exactly what they are, noodles cooked in a silky sweet and sour tomato sauce-based gravy.
There are generally two types of noodles served with this dish: crispy fried noodles or flat rice noodles aka kueh teow.
Mee sapi/beef noodles
Mee sapi or simply beef noodles, are some of our favourite Sarawakian dishes as it is so light yet hearty and simple at the same time.
It is noodles served with a beef-based broth topped with generous amounts of beansprouts, beef slices, and even tripe.
Although this is technically considered fried rice, this Sarawakian Malay dish does not use any oil. Instead, it is fried until there is a smoky taste to it.
Other than the main ingredient of rice, you can usually find garlic, onion, and anchovies in this simple dish.
A traditional Iban and Bidayuh dish, it involves cooking chicken inside a bamboo stalk which is filled with water, lemongrass, and other seasonings.
Then it is cooked over an open fire with a lid made naturally of tapioca leaves, effectively preserving the natural flavours on the inside.
Belacan bihun is exactly what it sounds like as it is bihun (rice noodles) served in a sweet shrimp-based gravy (belacan).
It is topped with cucumber, cuttlefish slices, and century egg and then served with a spritz of lime and chilli sauce.
Mani chai bihun
This is a dish of Hakka origin that is quite simple yet so addicting and flavourful at the same time.
It is rice noodles stir-fried with eggs, prawns, chicken pieces, and the mani chai herb, which gives it a slight savoury sweetness to it.
Fried oyster pancake
If you were to go to our local Kuching Food Festival, you would be able to spot multiple stalls offering fried oyster pancake.
Made to be shared much like a pizza, it is a thin, crispy pancake with oysters scattered all about the dish.
Umai is a Melanau delicacy that involves fresh chilled fish combined with onions, chilli, salt, and lime juice or assam fruit juice.
Think of it as the local version of sashimi, but a lot more savoury and tangier. This will definitely make your tastebuds dance!
Gula apong ice cream
Gula apong is a type of palm sugar created from the Nipah Palm. While most may be familiar with gula melaka, gula apong has this delicate fragrance that almost reminds us of caramelised sugar.
When you combine this flavourful sweetness with ice cream, you get a match made in heaven. If you love this, then you need to try our classic Teh C Special too.
Although this is a hard fruit, it is typically soaked in warm salt water for 10 to 15 minutes for a soft, date-like texture.
If you’re looking to try it though, you might have to keep waiting as it is a seasonal fruit that only appears from time to time.
I have to admit that midin is one of our favourite dishes to get whenever I am dining out at a Chinese restaurant.
It is a wild fern found only in Sarawak. It isn’t cultivated but grows freely everywhere, so you might even spot people stopping to pick these ferns from the side of the road.
The flowers of the durian tree are edible too. During the flowering season of the durian tree, locals will gather these delicate flowers before it is dried up from the sun.
Durian flowers are mostly cooked either in a curry or with belacan (shrimp paste). The flower has no strong smell, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Okay, so you’ve had durian. You may even like your Musang King and can’t wait for durian season every year.
But Sarawak has its own wild durians, which are not only smaller, but have flesh that are orange or even red in colour. How does it taste? It’s time to find out!